Roy actually winced when he sat down in the passenger seat of Hughes’ car.
Goddamn it. This was just no longer natural. His dick should have calmed down by now, but being as stubborn as its owner, the boner refused to listen to anything that did not fit its agenda. The slight frustration Roy had felt when he left Ed in his apartment was increasing with every step he had to take while his body continued to remind him that he used to be a very sexually active man and his needs had not vanished with a signature on a bet. The thumbscrew feeling was back, and it was slowly driving him nuts.
Hughes actually had the nerve to send a sympathetic glance his way. “The bet is really messing with you, isn´t it?” Maes observed.
If it weren´t for the caring tone in his voice, the Colonel would have glared at him. After all, Hughes was one of the people who had initiated that damn thing.
Neither man spoke.
Looking at Maes, without anything to distract his mind, Roy instantly remembered his recent dream. And what it had dug out of his memory.
And once again he found himself conflicted. While he watched Hughes start the engine, a part of him urged him to forget about the whole thing. It’s been years. Maes was married. Nothing had ever happened after that night, and clearly it had no impact on their friendship, so why bother bringing it up now? Was there anything relevant about it anymore? The matter was done. Over.
When all was said and done it had really just been another one night stand, hadn’t it? Sure, Roy didn’t usually become friends with his flings, or have flings with his friends, but…
He could not forget those tiny three words Hughes had uttered to him. That damn confession of love...
But after all this time, what did it matter? It was all in the past, old news. It was clear that Maes loved his fucking wife. Who he was married to. The mother of his child.
Yes, Roy was an anal and controlling bastard, and yes, finding out about that disconcerting twist to their shared past had thrown Roy off balance. But would it really hurt so much to just let the matter rest in peace?
Luckily, before his mind decided to become schizophrenic, his friend started talking.
“Roy, I admit I had not expected this whole bet business to influence you so much, but you haven’t exactly been acting like yourself the past few weeks.”
Sighing while he adjusted his seat so he wouldn´t have to sit up straight, Mustang muttered absently, “You have to be more specific, Maes.”
When the seat was adjusted, he sighed in relief. And as his member once again surrendered to the lack of stimulation, the tightness in his pants finally eased a bit, although it didn´t completely vanish. In addition to that, the uncomfortable aching in his lower stomach remained, and the frustration was making him decidedly cranky. He shifted uncomfortably in the seat.
Besides him, Maes still hadn´t pulled away from the curb. Instead, the man sighed.
“I´m talking about this… thing you have going with Ed,” Hughes stated more precisely.
The alchemist immediately felt annoyed. “This thing?” he repeated, putting emphasis on the vague word. The irritation was very evident in his voice, and of course Hughes noticed, and frowned.
“Whatever it is you’re doing.” Maes elaborated with a sigh. “Roy…” he stopped and took a deep breath.
Mustang just glared. He was the one who had said that he and Ed were not in a relationship, but calling it a ‘thing’ still felt wrong.
Maes finally continued. “Look, I understand that you’re off balance right now, but you´ve never been someone who avoided looking at the big picture. You always plan for the long run.” The Lieutenant Colonel cast a penetrating gaze at his friend, and the alchemist became wary. “So what exactly are you doing?”
Well, it was true that Roy usually planned things down to the last, fine detail. But it was also true that this ‘thing’ with Edward had been anything but planned. And other than making basic plans for a date or their next meeting, Roy had actually stopped depending on prearranged plans and possible outcomes when it came to the blond.
Plans and Edward were simply incompatible.
Even when Roy’s schemes actually worked, the younger alchemist still usually turned things in a completely unpredictable direction.
And actually, that should drive Roy absolutely crazy. Should, but didn’t. It wasn’t like Roy minded when the man suddenly started to talk about his former lover, right out of the blue. Quite the contrary. Roy wanted that information.
Or when Edward had initiated that first make out session on his couch. Roy smiled fondly at the memory. Nothing was as boring as a predictable lover, and well… this promised to be anything but boring.
“Good Lord, Roy.” This time, Hughes voice exposed some irritation as well. “Did you hear a word I just said?”
Mustang barely caught himself before allowing a questioning ‘Huh?’ to betray his lack of attention, aware of the fact that he had not even noticed that Maes had continued to talk. Hell, Roy hadn’t even noticed when the man started driving.
“Of course I did. Go on,” Roy lied. He saw the doubt appear in Hughes’ green eyes, but hoped the man was above asking him to repeat what had just been said.
Fortunately the man repeated himself anyway, just to make sure his point came across.
“As I was saying-“ Hughes started with a meaningful glance that told the alchemist his lie had been wasted, “- you should consider the possible consequences of your actions. Whatever this is you´re doing, it can´t go on.”
Roy froze. What the hell?
“Excuse me?” he asked, his anger building. “I don´t remember asking for your advice, Maes. Who I date is none of your business. And I actually thought you would encourage this, since you want to win this damn bet so badly.”
“Who you date? Roy, this is Edward Elric we’re talking about, not one of your trifling dates.” The bespectacled man shook his head. “And you can deny it as much as you want, but you are leading him on. What do you expect to happen when the bet is over?”
Biting his lip in irritation, Roy glared at the man. “I’ll find out when the time comes,” he growled. “I´m not planning this, Maes. I just want to see where it leads.”
The look Roy received spoke volumes about Maes thoughts on his friend’s uncharacteristic let’s-wait-and-see attitude.
“Really Roy?” Maes tone was mild, but Roy was not fooled. “It’s really not that difficult to predict. Let me lay it out for you.” Hughes kept his eyes fixed on the road. “When the bet has run its course, you will take Edward to your bed. And afterwards you’ll realize that it’s not what you expected, and that Ed’s not what you really want.”
If the situation was any different, Roy probably would have chuckled at the thought of putting ‘Ed’ and ‘expected’ in the same sentence. Under the circumstances however, Roy was becoming more than simply irritated by his friend’s overbearing behavior.
“And maybe I’ll realize he’s exactly what I need,” The Colonel shot back heatedly. Ignoring the exasperated look Maes sent his way, he continued. “I might not know for sure what will happen, but it’s my decision whether I want to start something with Ed or not. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s still Edward’s and my business alone. Not yours, so back off.”
When he and Maes argued over a difference of opinion they generally managed to keep it from getting personal, but the Investigations officer was way out of line. This was not something Roy wanted to talk about. He did not want to analyze what might be, might happen, or what someone might think. He just wanted to go with what felt right for once. Not his usual modus operandi, that was for sure, but that didn’t mean he shouldn´t do it.
And all through the current conversation, the nagging thought of his own behavior after that one night stand with Hughes came back to Roy’s mind. He wondered if his cruel comments, unwittingly about Maes himself, were the reason for Maes’ assumption that once he slept with Ed, Roy would callously break the whole thing off. Then he mentally shook himself. These parallels were to be expected considering the situation. He shouldn´t let the past influence the current situation. Especially not now.
“Glad to see you’re still thinking about this as ‘Ed’s business’ too,” Maes said flatly. “I know about that little ‘someone you like’ argument you used on him in the museum to convince him to buy that painting. We both know that wasn’t the only thing you were trying to convince him to do.” Hughes said, making a visible effort to control his own irritation.
“I thought that guy was one of your spies.” Mustang muttered.
The other man waved that aside. “He´s one of Arschloch’s men, but that´s not the point.” Taking a deep breath, Maes continued. “The point is that you are manipulating Ed, leading him on just for the sake of this ... this ... sexual experiment, or whatever it is. An experiment that will most likely fail, given your track record. And who stands to suffer the most when it does?”
His friend’s words hit Roy like a slap in the face. He stared at Hughes incredulously.
Hughes sighed and glanced over, taking in Roy’s stunned expression.
“I`m sorry. That came out all wrong,” he apologized, leaving Mustang to wonder how a statement like that could come out right. “I´m just worried about you, and about Ed,” Maes said after a moment. “He´s pretty much reshaping his life right now because of you, and I wonder if you´re even aware of this. I know I’ve been doing some maneuvering of my own to keep him in Central for my own reasons, but Roy…” Hughes shrugged. “As far as I can tell, you’re doing it for purely selfish reasons. You don’t want a relationship, but you don’t seem to care what Ed wants. The risk he’s taking is far outweighs what you have to offer. He doesn’t deserve to be treated like one of your inconsequential affairs.”
Well, at least they agreed on this. Roy certainly did not consider Ed some inconsequential affair, and once again the Colonel wondered just where he and Ed were heading. However, he also had to admit that he had done everything in his power to manipulate Ed into staying in Central – and he still had no concrete answer on that score. So much for planning anything Ed-related.
“Here’s something else you should consider,” Maes continued. “On any other day I wouldn’t ask this, but given the situation and your uncharacteristic behavior of late, I feel I have to. Have you thought about what might happen when you break this thing off, if Ed is employed as a consultant for the military? Maybe even working in that position we talked about? I know you don´t usually mix your private life with your professional life, which is a good policy. You know how dangerous that can be. For both of you.”
Leaning back, Roy closed his eyes. So far he had only considered how hooking up with Ed might benefit him, and that was a mistake. In all honesty Roy was not used to putting himself in his bed partner’s position – they were just a rapidly changing blur of faces really, only there for the mutual satisfaction of basic urges. Edward was admittedly different in that respect, and faced with all the things Roy should have considered long ago, he knew he was losing ground in this argument. But although he knew he should just stop for a moment, step back and think everything through, part of him simply refused to accept that he should reconsider this whole… experiment with Ed.
“You don´t know Fullmetal very well if you think he´ll just screw up the whole country out of spite, like some petty jilted lover,” Roy said, not sure if he regretted calling Edward ‘Fullmetal’ or not. And what the fuck gave Maes the right to talk as if the outcome of all this was already clear and set?
Beside him, the other man huffed, sounding almost desperate.
“Roy, this is Ed we’re talking about. Ninety percent of his actions are led by pure impulse!” Hughes pointed out.
Opening his eyes, Mustang looked out at the street in front of them, not really seeing it.
He thought about yesterday, when Ed had stated he needed to be careful and not get drunk. About the way the younger man avoided displaying anything that could be taken as more than friendship in public unless he was either drunk, or Roy worked very hard to get him comfortably relaxed naturally. He thought about the years Ed had been his subordinate, and how he had always played his cards so very close to his chest. He thought about Ed’s current, almost unnatural control of his explosive temper. Yes, Ed was impulsive. But he was also loyal almost to a fault. His friends and family were very important to him. And he had a natural talent for helping those in need. A more noble soul Roy had never met.
“He´s grown up quite a bit, in case you haven´t noticed,” Roy told his friend.
Maes sent a quick glance his way and stayed silent for a few seconds, likely thinking about his own failed attempts to pry information out of Edward.
“He may have grown up, but still…” Hughes paused for a moment, planning his attack. “Fine, let´s talk about this rationally. He was about to move into another town. Now he wants to stay.”
“You had a hand in that, too,” the Colonel reminded him.
“I didn´t use his emotional state against him. I have kept his best interests firmly in mind.”
For a moment, Roy prayed for his dwindling self control to hang on just a little longer. After this discussion, he would have to go and burn something. That might be the only way for him to calm down.
“Plans and priorities change, there is nothing wrong with Ed changing his.” Maes looked askance, so Roy elaborated. “Of course I know that Ed will always consider the emotional ramifications of his decisions, so when giving advice, why would I avoid them?”
“Right now he must suspect that you are keeping something from him,” Hughes took his next shot. “Yet he just let you walk out on him, and didn´t ask questions.”
“Are you seriously holding how I have gained his trust against me? It´s not like this is any of your concern, but I am going talk with him later. Like adults do,” Mustang countered, not really able to keep the biting undertone out of his voice.
“It’s not just that! But it´s obvious he depends on you a great deal to help him make decisions and-“
“He doesn´t depend on me.” Mustang interrupted. “He considers my opinion, and then makes his own decisions. He trusts my judgment. Just like you should.” He couldn´t help but add that jab, not when Hughes seemed determined to overrun Roy’s arguments.
“Should he? That much?” Hughes asked, and Roy had the sudden urge to hit his friend.
It was not like him to feel this way, especially not towards Maes. But that didn´t change the fact that Roy felt beyond defensive over this. His emotions were overriding and muddling his usually precise tactical arguments.
Maes continued before his friend’s violent intent became overwhelming. “Maybe he’s reading more into your motives simply because you’re currently not sleeping around as much as you used to.”
Mustang tried to keep himself from snapping. The equally biting tone in Maes’ voice was proof enough that the lack of progress in this absurd discussion was getting on Hughes’ nerves just as much as on his. Knowing that whatever he said now would not contribute to this argument in a positive manner, Roy took a deep breath and tried calm himself down.
Hughes, however, took advantage of the silence to continue.
“Have you even considered that Ed expects more that you are willing to give? I really don’t see Ed as the type to get involved with someone just out of curiosity.”
Maes had better not be more specific about what exactly he meant by curiosity. Roy knew he would not like the answer. And Maes would not like Roy’s reaction to it.
“You should just stop this whole mess right now, before the damage gets out of hand,” Hughes finally concluded.
While Mustang didn´t literally snap, something inside of him did.
“I will do no such thing!” he practically snarled. “And I won´t listen to this anymore. I value your opinion, but this is none of your business!” he stated vehemently. Then, with a grimace, he added: “If it were up to you, I’d have been married to some damn mousy housewife years ago, and with absolutely no offense to your preferred life style, I’d be bored to death.”
Hughes snorted. “Is that what this is about? The challenge? Please don´t tell me you´re willing to mess with Ed just for a short lived adrenalin rush.”
Roy took a deep breath, but Maes was already continuing, picking up the volume to show that he wouldn´t be interrupted.
“Marriage can be very fulfilling in ways your flings won´t ever be. But you won´t even consider the possibility that a wife will do you good! A woman to stand at your side, Roy! A partner! A wife who will give birth to your children one day! Until a few weeks ago, you wouldn´t even think of bedding a man, and now you’re…” He huffed. “I don´t even have words for this!”
He probably had a lot of words in mind, but Roy had a pretty good idea that none of them would be very flattering. Not that he cared right now about Maes’ opinion.
“And now I want to fuck Ed.” He finished in a matter-of-fact-tone of voice. “So what? I´m entitled to have sex with whomever I wish.”
“Of course you are.” Frustration was creeping back into Hughes’ voice. “I´m not saying you aren’t.” The man seemed resigned for a moment. “But right now, not only are you letting your lust interfere with what might be your only shot at getting a great deal of control over the State Alchemist program, you’re also leading Ed, a young man who trusts you, on.”
“I already told you -“ Roy started again, unnerved over the circle in their discussion.
“And you´re wrong!” Hughes interrupted him heatedly. Staring at his friend, Mustang stopped short. It was not like Maes to get this emotional in an argument. “Stop acting like a fool and admit it. You can´t tell me you wouldn´t expect more of this if you were in Ed’s place.”
Roy knew that Maes was right, but what his friend didn’t realize was that Roy wasn´t out to just fuck Edward. He wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted from the young man anymore, but he rather preferred to just let things develop. So far, it had been good. So what if he was leading Ed on? Maybe he was. But he was pretty much leading himself on as well.
Roy kept silent, while the lump in his throat grew and his intestines joined the club, feeling like a heavy knot. He knew it was impulsive and stupid, but right now, he just wanted his best friend to fuck off.
The drive to Maes’ house became uncomfortably quiet, the minutes stretching like chewing gum. The silence left a bitter taste in Roy’s mouth. He felt like he should say something to break the tension, but was stuck at what. So he went for the first thing that came to mind, without thinking much it. Fuck Hughes for starting this anyway.
“So what? You expect me to tell Ed that I just want this to be a casual affair?” He looked over to his friend and barely prevented a disgusted sneer. “Maybe I should explain to him that what I really want is some pretty little housewife?” Now he couldn’t prevent the sneer and deliberately quoted his friend. “A woman to stand beside me? A wife who will give birth to my children?” He snorted and felt a little bit of satisfaction when he finally said. “Bullshit.” Beside him, Maes took a deep breath and despite the obvious effort it took his friend not to comment, Roy repeated himself. “That’s absolute bullshit, Maes. Why don’t you add a damn house with a garden and a dog to the picture, Hughes? A nice and sweetly wrapped boring piece of fucking shit.”
“Stop acting like child whose pride has been hurt, Roy.” The other man said with a sigh that got on Roy’s nerve more than any words could. “It’s not that big of a deal. You break off affairs all the time.”
He knew he should just shut up and think for a minute. The way he was acting right now was stupid and probably dangerous, but Maes’ words only threw oil onto the already hot burning fire.
Contemplating his arguments and Hughes’ reactions to his current strategy, Roy quickly adjusted it.
“You know, maybe I should.” He said, slowly. In the driver’s seat, the Lieutenant Colonel tensed, familiar with that tone. “But since I should break off this whole… ‘thing’ anyway,” Roy continued, deliberately using the same words his friend did, “maybe I should first get a good fuck out of it. After all, that´s what affairs are for, aren’t they?”
The car came to a sudden stop and Roy barely managed to stop himself from flying through the windshield. Damn, fastening the seatbelt might have been a good idea… if a part of it wouldn´t have to be wrapped over on his lower stomach. It was a good thing Maes, focused on the discussion, was driving slowly, or else this might have hurt more. As it was, Roy’s wrist was pounding painfully from his grip on the handle above the door.
He sent a glare but received one in return.
“Good Lord, Roy. Could you stop acting like the bastard Ed claims you to be and start thinking about this rationally?” The green eyed man’s anger was heavy in his voice, but Roy only snorted.
“What´s not rational about it? Ed´s a man, as you already pointed out. He will enjoy it. At least we will both benefit from this before I call it off. He´s going to be pissed anyway, so I might at least have some fun first.”
Hughes stared at him, and Roy could see his temper almost reaching the boiling point. It was almost like watching a train heading towards a cliff and knowing the brakes would never stop it in time.
Roy felt no remorse for pushing that train closer to the cliff. “And since you’re going to be running my life from now on, I’m sure you’ll insist that I get myself a woman after this, so I think I should go out with a bang.” He could see Hughes’ thoughts running wild. Good. Doing his best to appear overly considerate, he added, “So what do you think? Should I let him have a chance to fuck me as well? If he’s good in bed? After you’ve got me married off, I won´t have a chance to try that again, so I might as well give it another shot.”
Now the other man lost a bit of color in his face.
“Roy… “ Maes swallowed and took a deep breath. “Maybe we should talk about this another time. After that bet is over. You´re not acting like yourself and-“
“-and what?” Mustang snarled, unwilling to just brush this whole thing aside after his best friend basically put his food in his mouth, unwilling to treat the whole ‘thing’ with Ed as if it was just some moody side effect of the damn bet. “What the fuck tells you I won´t enjoy it?” he questioned. “Or even stay with him?” he added.
“Roy, you´re not going to stay -“ Hughes began, clearly tired of arguing with his best friend while Roy obviously seemed deaf to any rational arguments at the moment.
“- with Ed?” Mustang asked. “Or with a man? Is that the real problem here? That Ed is a man? Would we be having this conversation if I was getting involved with Riza?”
“Roy, that’s ridiculous,” Hughes sighed. “You know I don´t have a problem with homosexuality.”
“I’m asking why the hell you seem so goddamn obsessed with the idea of getting me married to a wife!” Mustang countered.
“I’m your best friend; of course I want you to be happy,” the other man answered.
Observing him closely, Roy contemplated his course. He should keep this separate, because he hoped that this situation had nothing to do with the past, but he couldn´t be sure. He couldn´t be sure he if he was seeing parallels because he suspected them to be there, or if he was ignoring insights because he didn’t want them to be there. He had to be sure, because he had to be able to trust Hughes. And this… this was the perfect opportunity. Asking right now would give him the chance to know without even mentioning their recently remembered history.
He needed to be sure.
“So, if I decided to get involved with Ed in a serious long term relationship…or hell, if I decided to get seriously involved with any man, to rule out that whole political point you so enjoy throwing in my face,” Roy specified, knowing he couldn’t give Hughes a loophole to change the subject, or any flimsy excuse to not answer, “… you would be fine with that?”
Silence answered him.
Better than any words could.
I admit, that chapter left me really nervous and I´ve been afraid I ruined Hughes for you. I hope his actions are reasonable for you